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Action News Investigation: Safety concerns over city-issued vehicles

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A two-month long Action News investigation is exposing concerns about the safety of our public servants, some whose lives may be at risk if they're driving city-issued vehicles with serious recalls. (WPVI)

Most of us have some idea if the car we are driving has an existing safety issue.

But we've found the hundreds of Philadelphia city cars have open recalls, driven by police officers, members of the fire department and medical response teams.

While they are risking their lives to protect you, we're asking the city if they are doing enough to make sure these city employees are safe.

The City of Philadelphia has about 6,000 car in its fleet, from fire trucks to police cruisers, trash trucks and more.

But an Action News investigation has found some of those cars, including the detail driving Mayor Jim Kenney, could be an accident waiting to happen.

"They should pull the vehicle off the street," said ASE Master Certified Technician Robert Ruch.

In November, GM issued a recall of approximately 50,000 Police Pursuit Tahoes used by government agencies. On that recall list, the mayor's car, due to a possible "electrical short circuit."

In fact, our investigation revealed a total of 106 Police Pursuit Tahoes are part of Philadelphia's active fleet, in spite of the recall, "which can increase the risk of an engine-compartment fire while the vehicle is running."

"You have a car that can catch on fire. I mean I don't think it can get any worse than that," said Ruch.

Action News shared the list of recalls we discovered with the ASE Master Certified Technician.

"It basically is a do not use vehicle," said Ruch.

We discovered 25 Ford Ranger pickup trucks with Takata Airbag recalls are part of Philadelphia's Streets, Parks and Water Department fleets.

"You have metal shards that can come from the discharge, which is basically like a shotgun shell inside of the car," said Ruch.

We found 28 police interceptors with "fuel pump" recalls, which can cause the "engine to stall without warning" while driving, that can "increase the risk of a crash," seat belts that could fail, and doors with potentially defective door latches.

"The door could open when the vehicle is in motion," said Ruch.

"Our safety for our drivers as well as the public is our main concern," said Philadelphia's Assistant Fleet Manager Tom Hall.

Since Action News began our investigation in December, the city's fleet department has fixed 557 open recalls. In the prior 11 months, they had repaired 1,302 cars, increasing their repair rate from less than four cars a day to more than seven cars a day once Action News started looking into the issue.

Hall says that's just a coincidence.

"Once it becomes parts available, we will jump on that remedy," said Hall.

Some cars, like the police interceptors, he tells us have to be repaired over time.

"We can't pull 100 vehicles off the streets because of department needs. It's just impossible, you will put the whole city at risk," said Hall.

But for cars with potentially dangerous safety recalls without remedies, he says they will stay on the road.

"The federal government, they did not say we need to park these vehicles or remove them from service, so we decided to keep them in service," said Hall.

A decision Ruch questions.

"They are at risk. They don't even know. They just get in the car in the morning and they drive out of the yard," said Ruch.

"Do we know if the employees are notified or not?" Action News Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman asked.

"I don't know. At my level, I would have to say, 'no,' " said Hall.

The city also says they have not seen any problems with the cooling fan fires, or other recall issues. They say they follow the federal safety standards and requirements, and have reached out to the city's law department and risk management, and determined these cars, in their opinion, are safe enough to drive.

For more news and updates to her investigations, be sure to follow Wendy Saltzman on Facebook.
Related Topics:
Action News Investigationphiladelphia newsauto recalljim kenney
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